Doctor Convicted of Fraud Deserves Prison, Ex-Patients Say
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) _ To some women, Cecil Jacobson remains a godsend, a ″wonderful″ and dedicated medical pioneer who helped them bear children when all other hope seemed lost. Others say the physician’s conviction on 52 counts of fraud and perjury was exactly what he deserved.
After deliberating four days, a federal jury on Wednesday found the former infertility specialist guilty of every charge in the bizarre case, including the fraudulent use of his own sperm to inseminate patients and lying to other women about whether they were pregnant.
Jacobson, 55, could face a prison sentence of up to 280 years and a fine of up to $500,000. He was expressionless as the lengthy verdict was announced, but later told reporters ″I spent my life trying to help women have children. It’s a shock to be found guilty of trying to help people.″
″I have no scheme. ... I did not break any law,″ Jacobson said. His sentencing was scheduled for May 8.
The conviction ″means he can’t hurt anyone else in the future,″ said Christine Maimone, who testified against him. ″He got what he deserved.″
But Elizabeth Trotter, who testified for the defense and had a daughter under Jacobson’s care, said ″It’s almost inconceivable that that would happen to this man. He is just such a wonderful person.″
Jacobson is credited with introducing amniocentesis in the United States to diagnose defects in unborn babies.
But prosecutors say he may have fathered as many as 75 children by using his own sperm to artificially inseminate patients, many times after claiming donors had been matched to their husbands’ physical and even religious characteristics.
Witnesses also accused him of using hormone injections to convince them they were pregnant - and hence his care successful - when that was not the case. Jacobson admitted he erred in some cases, but he insisted other women were indeed pregnant and later miscarried.
Defense attorney James Tate indicated an appeal was likely.
Deborah Gregory, who sobbed while testifying that Jacobson tricked her into believing she was pregnant three times, said after the verdict: ″He emotionally devastated myself and my husband and many other people, and he deserves to be punished.″
″I don’t mean to be vindictive, but this man hurt me in ways I can never explain,″ Mrs. Gregory said.
Former patient Jean Blair, who said Jacobson led her through false pregnancies six times, waited several days at the courthouse for the verdict and cried after it was announced.
″I had no idea they would find him guilty on all counts,″ Mrs. Blair said. Her husband, James, said Jacobson ″fooled a lot of people for a long time and I’m glad he didn’t fool this jury.″
All three former patients who testified against Jacobson said they believed he should be sent to prison. Prosecutor Randy Bellows declined to tell reporters whether he would seek prison time.
A patient who testified for Jacobson, Marcia Busher, criticized those who came out against him.
″It’s hard to believe that these women ... would have so much hatred that they would do something like this,″ she said. ″He was their last resort″ in their efforts to have a child.
Jacobson admitted on the witness stand that he occasionally used his own sperm to inseminate patients when other donors were not available, but he contended it was a common practice among doctors.
However, 11 former patients or their husbands testified - some wearing disguises - that the doctor promised to find donors to match the husbands’ characteristics. All said Jacobson also promised the donor would never know who they were.
Robert Baumiller, a geneticist and dean of health sciences at the University of Detroit, said the American Infertility Society’s standards require that the donor and recipient never know each other’s identity.
″It’s not common practice and I think it’s shocking and a tremendous insult to other physicians to say it’s common practice,″ Baumiller said.
Jacobson insisted he never intentionally misled any patients into believing they were pregnant.
But jury foreman Daniel Richard said, ″We knew he was lying to those patients.″